“It’s over,” she confessed as we sipped our coffee.
After I sympathized and we relegated him to bastards who wouldn’t know a good thing if it hit them between the eyes, she cheered up a little. “And I was so looking forward to meeting him.”
I need to backtrack a little.
They’d been having a cyber relationship for months. Lots of virtual chat, sexting and flirting, but it all fell apart when they reached the first online love milestone – the exchange of photographs.
How can I put this gently? There was zero sparkage – zilch, nada, nothing. She wouldn’t have dated him if he was covered in hundred euro notes and he hated skinny women. All the virtual evenings they had spent together were gone in an instant, and they were both back on the cyber shelf or in the cyber saddle, eager for their next adventure.
And they’re not alone.
One in five relationships now begins online. That’s a scary statistic in anybody’s book but not surprising when you think of how much time we spend in front of a computer. From a flirty hello on FB to sending a quick pic on Whatsapp, we’ve become accustomed to instant communication. We banter, exchange information about our daily routines and before we know it, we’re immersed in the lives of people we’ve never actually met.
As the relationship progresses, we exchange email addresses and look forward to texts It’s all fun, exciting, even sexy, but how much are we missing out?
Sexual chemistry is a complex thing. We know within seconds of meeting a new man whether we find him hot – or not. And that’s before we’ve exchanged a single word. It might be his smile, or his voice, his scent or simply how he looks. The way he presents himself to the world enables to make a judgement call pretty quickly.
Experts will argue forever about how much of human communication is non-verbal. Think about what we can convey with a gesture or a frown or a yawn. We know when someone is interested in us by the level of eye contact or the type of body language they exhibit. Do they stand close? Do they stare or smile. Do they try to touch us? We are bombarded with messages, some subtle, some not and we can choose to respond, or maybe not.
But what happens online is different. The relationship is condensed to the size of a computer screen and unfortunately we’re only receiving part of the message. So how can we stay safe and have fun online?
If you’re one of thousands of women looking for prince charming on dating sites, you might want to take a good look at your profile. Are you happy to reveal this much information to complete strangers?
Steer clear of giving personal information to cyber stalkers. Don’t include your full name, birth date or other identifying features like where you work or went to school. Having an unusual hobby might make you stand out from the crowd, but it can also tell an unwanted someone where you spend your Tuesday nights.
Be careful with photographs. Keep your privacy settings high. Only share them with people you’re interested when you’re ready.
When you do get chatting, don’t be open too quickly. Keep your social media contact details to yourself. Before you go off-site with a new cyber buddy, think about investing in a prepaid ‘friend phone’. Don’t get too friendly too soon.
If you make it as far as meeting up, take proper precautions. Always meet in a public place. Tell a friend who you’re meeting and where. Arrange a safe call during the evening to let them know that you’re okay. And always, always, make sure that someone knows you got home safely.